A group of Utahns had no sooner called upon the Army to postpone its hearings on a new germ warfare defense testing laboratory planned for Dugway Proving Ground, than the Army decided to put off the sessions.

Hearings were scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12. Now they are being postponed; but as of Thursday morning, the new date was not available."The Army released the SDEIS (supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the project) on Nov. 27," says a letter that the 19 citizens sent to Gov. Norm Bangerter on Wednesday. It adds that many people did not receive a copy of the draft until a few days ago.

The tight scheduling is unnecessary and makes it difficult to review the document carefully, says the group, headed by Preston J. Truman, director of the military watchdog group Downwinders.

Steve Erickson of Downwinders, among those who signed the letter, said the group asked the governor to pressure the Army to put off the hearings at least until the start of the new year.

"They release it (the draft) right after Thanksgiving, hold their hearings on Hanukkah, catch everybody in the middle of the holidays," he said."This is a deliberate attempt by the Department of the Army to railroad this thing through before anybody knows what hit them, to minimize controversy, so they can go to Congress at the end of January and say, `Nobody seemed concerned about it in Utah.' "

Speaking of the hearings, Carol Fruik, public affairs officer at Dugway, said Thursday, "They are going to be postponed." However, the Army is still working out details about when they will be held.